Academies raise their game in a rebuke to critics
Academies appear to have upped their game this year, across the board, posting better than expected improvements in GCSE results.
The Harris Federation has seen a 10 percentage points increase across all their academies. Peckham Academy saw a 11% improvement, for instance, from 26% to 37% of pupils securing A*-C grades, including English and Maths. ARK Academies have seen a 13 percentage points increase – described by Schools Minister Nick Gibb as “a remarkable achievement and an example of what is possible with freedom, independence and relentless focus on raising standards for all.” In one of Arks schools, Burlington Danes, in West London, 60% of pupils achieved five GCSE passes including maths and English, representing a 20% improvement on last year. Its St Albans Academy saw a 19% improvement. Even the ULT stable which has, relatively speaking, been under the kosh recently with a couple of poor Ofsted reports, posted an 8 point increase. Paddington ULT Academy, for example, reported an impressive 28 point increase from 34 per cent to 62 per cent. All 17 of its schools have exceeded the threshold of at least 30% passing five GCSEs including maths and English.
The Government claims that, historically, Academy improvement rates have consistently outstripped the average national increase in the proportion of pupils achieving at least five GCSEs at A*-C including English and maths. Nick Gibb reacting to the figures said “It is because of this success, together with our determination to tackle inequality in education, that we want to see academy freedoms used more widely to drive up standards with the heads of outstanding schools working in partnership with weaker schools to help the poorest children, along with allowing great new schools to be set up by teachers, parents and charities.” It is probably too early to say but champions of the Academy reforms already claim that now the genie of school choice is out of the bottle it is clearly thriving. Academies work. The irony is that much of the credit for this goes to the last Government and particularly Tony Blair and Andrew Adonis but you won’t hear many Labour politicians boasting about it, and silence from the leadership campaigners is particularly noticeable. Ed Balls, the former Education Secretary, claims that the Coalitions Academy and free school reforms have nothing to do with the Labour scheme. He sees the new scheme as a reversion to GM schools as they are not exclusively targeting the disadvantaged and this will lead to a redirection of resources away from those most in need.